Today I am going to bring up an issue that has been seriously and dramatically plaguing our society for several decades now. I am referring, of course, to corporate capitalization.
Before I get into this, I’d like to start with a few words about capitalization rules. These come to us directly from the Big Book of Capitalization Facts, which is a large book of facts about capitalization. It was last published in 1994. I may have also made it up.
Anyway, on page 17, the book very clearly says the following: The only letter you ever capitalize in a proper noun is the first one, such as “Stalin” or “Mao.” Also, if you’re dealing with an Irish person whose name is McSomething, he gets two capital letters. But not three. And you may capitalize initials, but only if you like the person.
These rules seem very clear, and I have been following them my entire adult life. I did not follow them so much when I was a child, but then again I also thought dragons were real.
Unfortunately, many of today’s more annoying corporations have also been ignoring these rules, which – according to the Big Book of Capitalization Facts – is a huge no-no. In fact, the book clearly states on page 22: Many companies try to capitalize all the letters in their name, or none of the letters in their name, or some of the letters in their name. This is just a bunch of bullshit.
I will give you an example. Smart, which is a tiny automobile manufacturer that manufactures tiny automobiles, insists in all corporate communications that their brand name should be printed entirely in lower case. So you get idiotic news releases from them that read as follows:
The wonderful smart fortwo is a tiny car purchased by smart smart buyers. The engine in the smart fortwo is the same one that powers your desktop fan. smart fortwo buyers enjoy their smart fortwo in a wide range of smart fortwo situations. smart fortwo smart fortwo smart fortwo.
My question is: why the hell do you want the brand name to be lower case? Is this so people will notice it? If so, I must admit that you have succeeded, because I always notice it, in every Smart news release. And then I think to myself: these people have the brains of salamanders.
Smart is not alone on this issue. On the other side of the coin, we have automotive brand Mini, who insists that its name should be entirely capitalized in every press release, as if it’s being shouted by Paul Revere on a midnight ride through your e-mail inbox. For instance:
The latest MINI is a MINI of MINI proportions. It offers style only a MINI can boast with handling you only get from a MINI. The MINI is a highly recognizable vehicle with many MINI fans and MINI clubs all around the world. THE REDCOATS ARE COMING! THE REDCOATS ARE COMING!
And then there are the idiotic brands who think they will be more memorable if they have a capitalized letter somewhere in the middle of their name. A good example of this is eBay, who insists on a lower case first letter and a capital second letter. You just know the public relations staff at eBay think this is so cool. Everybody knows eBay because of our unique capitalization! they probably say, while high-fiving one another at a corporate retreat. What they don’t realize is that everyone also knows eBay because it’s the world’s largest forum for selling grilled cheese sandwiches that look like the Virgin Mary.
And don’t even get me started on the iPhone.
Fortunately, our society’s corporate capitalization issues have not yet reached critical mass like it has with our corporate ampersand issues. You know what I mean: it is no longer acceptable to be Smith & Jones. You have to now be Smith + Jones. Or Smith|Jones. Or Smith/Jones. When I am dealing with one of these companies, I now say the punctuation mark as if it were a part of the business name. For example, here is a recent conversation I had at Smith*Jones headquarters:
Me: Hello! I’d like to speak to someone at Smith asterisk Jones.
Smith*Jones Receptionist: Sir, this is the post office, and there are other customers in line.
But if corporate capitalization keeps going down its current very dark path, I suspect it won’t be too long before it becomes commonplace in our society to see capital letters everywhere: in the middle of words. At the end of words. Randomly sprinkled throughout words. Hiding out in public bathrooms.
Fortunately, I believe we can now band together as a society and put a stop to it before it gets out of control. If that doesn’t work, I would hereafter like to be known as dOug demurO, because I am O! So Cool.
@DougDeMuro is the author of Plays With Cars. He divides his time between writing about cars and sitting around his house watching Gilmore Girls without any pants on. Also, he wrote this bio himself in the third person.